Vets Now has been “highly commended” for its work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of its staff.

The country’s leading provider of pet emergency care employs more than 700 people at its 60+ out-of-hours clinics and emergency and speciality hospitals across the UK.

Another 100-plus employees work at the company’s support office in Dunfermline, Fife.

Vets Now was praised for its commitment to health and wellbeing by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) at its inaugural wellbeing awards.

Laura Black, Vets Now’s health, safety and wellbeing manager, said: “The issue of mental health is more prevalent than ever in the veterinary profession and we recognise that out-of-hours work, in particular, can present its challenges.

“That’s why, as an organisation, health and wellbeing is one of our key priorities.

“While it’s nice to be recognised for this work, it’s more important that our staff feel it’s made a positive difference to their lives.”

At Vets Now there are several initiatives in place to ensure staff feel a strong sense of wellbeing.

These include:

•    a company-wide employee wellbeing programme that enables teams and their families to access advice and counselling on any health and wellbeing issue that may be affecting them

•    mental health awareness training to give managers the confidence to support their teams

•    every member of staff receiving a birthday card from the chief executive

•    the delivery of Christmas hampers to veterinary teams working during the festive period

•    budgets to allow teams to organise events that encourage and promote healthy living and team bonding

•    an awards ceremony to honour, celebrate and recognise those who have gone the extra mile

•    activities to mark Blooming Monday – the third Monday in January which is known as “the most depressing day of the year”

•    enabling staff to take time off to support charities

•    educating out-of-hours workers on issues such as mindfulness and sleep hygiene

•    flexible working hours for support staff

•    an occupational health service and free flu vaccinations

Laura, a former veterinary nurse, added: “At Vets Now we live by our values of caring, releasing potential, innovation and responsibility.

“Indeed they are a fundamental part of our company and they influence and support everyone who chooses to work here.

“While it goes without saying we care about our clients and their pets, we also allocate significant resources to making sure our people feel happy, safe and supported and enjoy a strong sense of wellbeing.

“Our health and wellbeing strategy identifies that mental health, night working and management training are key priorities and that by focusing on those areas we can positively make a difference to our employees’ lives.”

The wellbeing awards were held as part of the RCVS’s high-profile Mind Matters initiative.

It was launched with the aim of improving the mental health and wellbeing of everyone working in the veterinary profession, including students, veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and practice managers.

Nick Stuart, SPVS senior vice-president, said: “We were so impressed with all the entries, not just our winners.

“Initiatives, such as a hamper for ‘the loveliest person of the month’, a day off for people on their birthday, and in-house training on mental health and wellbeing help define the culture of a practice.”

Veterinary businesses and practices could enter one of three categories in the awards, determined by their number of full-time equivalent staff.

The judges then scored for internal communication, opportunities for training and development, team building and networking, and initiatives to reduce stress and promote wellbeing and resilience.

On the judging panel were RCVS Deputy CEO Lizzie Lockett, Emma Mamo, of mental health charity Mind, chair of Vetlife helpline Rosie Allister, chair of Mind Matters Neil Smith, Richard Hillman and Nick Stuart.

If you’d like to find out more about Vets Now’s health and wellbeing programme please contact our health, safety and wellbeing team on 01383 627628.